We arrived at Marathon just before Halloween to find the marina was fairly empty with only a few slips occupied. Most of the slips were occupied by people living and working at the marina. Each time the weather was nice for a few days, more boaters would begin to dock a few at a time. Then a couple of weeks before Christmas, Marathon Marina was at capacity. For the next two months there wasn’t a slip available at Marathon Marina and waiting list was growing for the over 250 mooring balls in Boot Key Harbor. Everywhere we go, cruisers make quick friends and share information.
At Marathon Marina and Resort, it wasn’t long before everyone knew our names. We looked forward to watching the sunsets at the little mosaic table on the fuel dock that provided a place to share a small snack or a glass of wine; it was also the perfect platform to share sailing stories and adventures. Like many places we have been, inertia sets in the mooring lines quickly. In addition to sailing around, we had planned to stay in places for a few months so that we could meet people and make new friends. And we have met so many great folks that I could make entire blog entry about them.
We have found that inertia and the weather can trap you, making it difficult to exit the marina. When making passages, there are a lot of failed starts; some due to weather and some insufficient planning. It seems that weather windows can close quickly. We always try to string together several good days of weather when we plan to move Sea Change. We look at several different weather routing sites each morning when we are planning a passage. We study the predictions for the next few days since weather predictions beyond that are notoriously inaccurate. As our paid time at Marathon Marina and Resort finally came to a close, we knew that we had to start moving north. We had selected a couple of favorable days and began working on converting the boat from a dock-u-minium to an ocean going vessel. We provisioned, making sure that we had fresh veggies and protein on board as well a few beers for the ships engineer and general maintenance man. Our weather window closed pretty quickly with our departure day forecast having 20 knots of wind, small craft advisories, and uncomfortable seas and so we stayed. A few days later, the window opened up again. With winds forecast out of the southwest, we decided to move north.
On Ground Hog Day, we fueled up and left beautiful Marathon, Florida which had been our home for three months. Robin and I love the colors of sea and this was no exception. As we rounded Boot Key, and began taking 4 and 5 foot waves on the beam, there was an incredible contrast between shallow water made opaque by the suspended coral and sand and the vibrant turquoise waters that are typical of the Keys. We unfurled some sail and headed north taking the swells on the beam and making for a most uncomfortable ride for the first three or four hours. As our course changed from east to north, we enjoyed a following sea and a much more comfortable ride.
Neither Robin nor I have yet to suffer from the mal de mer, but certainly this could have been one of those times. We both did fine, drinking plenty of water and snacking on peanut butter and honey sandwiches. After sailing most of the day, we anchored just in the lee of Key Largo as we were expecting a cold front passage. The anchor set well as Robin and I selected three prominent landmarks ashore to make sure that we didn’t drag anchor. No problem really, if we did drag anchor, we’d just end up in Cuba. About 1 am Sea Change snapped around smartly and tugged at her anchor waking me. Quickly I popped my head up the companion way to locate my onshore landmarks. With a 90 degree wind shift, some of the buildings ashore were in a different places in relation to the boat but it only took a few minutes to figure out we were set well and not dragging a bit. I climbed quickly back into the warm bunk, waking every couple of hours to check on the anchor until sunup. First night out and all is well!